On 'Changes,' Charles Bradley Keeps Going Forward On his third album, the soul singer carries the memory and wisdom of his late mother. "She showed me a lot of things," he says, "and maybe that's why I can hold up now, and try to be strong."
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On 'Changes,' Charles Bradley Keeps Going Forward

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On 'Changes,' Charles Bradley Keeps Going Forward

On 'Changes,' Charles Bradley Keeps Going Forward

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is the screaming eagle of soul.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T GONNA GIVE IT UP")

CHARLES BRADLEY: (Singing) Oh, I ain't going to give it up.

MARTIN: Is musician Charles Bradley. He was to our colleague, David Greene.

DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: Charles Bradley has a James Brown kind of sound, doesn't he? Well, for a long time, he was a James Brown impersonator. He only recently found mainstream success. At 67, he's out with his third album. It's called "Changes." And to understand the emotion behind the title song, you really have to return to Bradley's childhood, when he and his mom separated.

BRADLEY: You know, I just - I really didn't know my mom too good. I was kind of hooked on my grandmother. So it just sort of seemed like I was, like, the black sheep of the family. So I ran away. And I was 14. And I left on my own.

GREENE: On his own and homeless on the streets of New York City.

BRADLEY: Living in the subway trains. And police, they used to come there with a nightstick and say, you can't sleep here. I'd get up and go across the street, get on another train and go back the other way.

GREENE: After that, he moved around a lot - to California, to Canada, to Maine. Eventually, one person was able to bring him back home - his mom.

Your mom, when she convinced you to come to her in New York, she said she wanted to get to know you. Did you get to know her?

BRADLEY: Over the last twelve years of my life, of her life, she showed me a lot of things. And maybe that's why I can hold up now and kind of be strong. The day before she died, she said, tell Charles to come in my room. And I came into the room. I said, yeah, mom? She said, now I can tell you're my heart. She said, you are my heart, son.

GREENE: So I - I would love to listen to a little bit of the song - the title song on this album, "Changes."

BRADLEY: "Changes."

GREENE: Yeah, I - were you - it's a Black Sabbath song, and it's on the album. I mean, had you planned to put it on this album before your mom passed away?

BRADLEY: Tom Brenneck asked me to learn that.

GREENE: This is your producer.

BRADLEY: And I never heard that song before. But when I listened to the lyrics - it's the last verses on that song just stuck to my heart. It took so long to realize I can hear her last goodbye.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHANGES")

BRADLEY: (Singing) Last goodbye. And now, all my days are filled with tears. Wish I could go back and change these years.

GREENE: Mr. Bradley, I have heard that you have even more emotions when you sing this song now since she passed away.

BRADLEY: Yeah. One thing she said - son, this world is not your home. You're just passing through. She said, keep being a good son. Keep doing the right things you're doing. Maybe the world don't hear you cry, but God heard you cry.

GREENE: Do you have anything that you would tell people who, you know, feel very alone in this life and have lost people and have gone through a lot of things by themselves?

BRADLEY: You know, it was, like, I did this show the other night, and I got off stage. I saw that I was singing "Changes." And I went to the audience. I always try to get in the back of the audience because there are a lot of people that really want to get close to me, and I want to get close to them. So I got maybe about in the middle of it, and this young guy came to me. And he was crying. And I look at him. And he said, Charles Bradley, he said, my brother died last night. And he said, the words that you put in your "Changes," he said, I felt that.

And he started crying, and I just broke down with him and cried with him because I really felt this guy's love, and I understand that so well. Son, let me tell you one thing. Your brother is right up in heaven with my mom. They're looking down on us right now. So just know that your brother's in a better place, and he ain't got to worry about all these trials and tribulations down here no more. And we sit there - I cried with him about two or three minutes. And then, my tour manager said, Charles, it's time to go. You've got to go back on stage.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHANGES")

BRADLEY: (Singing) I'm going through changes. I'm going through changes in my life.

GREENE: I have to say, I wish I had known you and been able to listen to this song when I lost my mother suddenly a decade ago. I think I - just talking you would have helped a lot.

BRADLEY: She's in a better place. And she - I'll say the same thing to you that I said to this young guy the other day. They're up there looking down at us. So I know, like mom says, this world is not my home. I love everything in it, and I have showed it with my dignity and my heart from my childhood, from adulthood.

That's why my mom told me who I was. And she said, son, keep pushing. And it's easy to give up, and it's hard to keep going forward, but I chose to keep going forward.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOOD TO BE BACK HOME")

BRADLEY: (Singing) Good to be back at home.

MARTIN: Charles Bradley talking with our colleague, David Greene, about his new album, "Changes."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOOD TO BE BACK HOME")

BRADLEY: (Singing) Everything I've been through - good to be back at home.

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